Aquaponics How To

transcription Video..

Welcome to our phase one greenhouse aquaponics system, set up to grow 1,000 fish. We’ve got six of these tanks plumbed together, each holding various rates of growth of fish for continuous harvest. In the back, we got our vortex filters I’ll tell you about later. But, first, let’s get some basics. Aquaponics is the merging of two farming technologies–you’ve got hydroponics & aquaculture. Hydroponics is growing plants without soil in water, like we got here. Aquaculture is fish farming. This is a symbiotic relationship, where the fish fertilize the plants with their waste. The plants use that fertilizer, soak it up, & send the water back clean to the fish to re-use. Some of the other benefits of aquaponics are the free organic fertilizer we get every day, the optimal growing environment for the plants, & the freshest fish & veggies to your plate on the earth.

So, the best way to learn aquaponics is to learn the principles. Once you figure out the principles, you can build the system any way you like to fit your goals using whatever materials you can find in whatever country you’re in. So, whether you wanna build a small basement system with 40-gallon totes that’ll give you salad greens every day for your family..or if you wanna build a backyard system with a thousand fish & multiple grow beds..or a large scale production system–it’s all the same principles.

So, principle #1: get connected. Post any questions you have in our forum. We wanna help you. Visit our growing database of technical information at theurbanfarmingguys.com. Join us; there’s a bunch of like-minded people there who wanna help you out.

Okay, that wasn’t a principle. But, the most important thing you need to be concerned with when you’re building your system is water quality. You wanna keep the ammonia low, the oxygen high, & the temperature right. We’re gonna show you just how that happens. A lot of people ask how many pounds of fish can you put in your system per gallon of water? Well, fish excrete toxic ammonia. The answer to that question is highly determined on how quickly your system handles that ammonia. So, rather than flush that water down the drain, aquaponics takes advantage of the ammonia. It’s called the nitrogen cycle & it takes place right here. It’s all about building your system to host the most healthy bacteria. The fish excrete the toxic ammonia compound. The bacteria immediately eat the ammonia, turn it into nitrite. Another bacteria comes along, eats the nitrite, converts it into nitrate which is then absorbed by the plants as fertilizer.

So, that poses two questions: how do you build your system to host the most bacteria? & where do you get that bacteria in the first place? The amount of bacteria that your system can host is directly proportionate to the amount of surface area your system has. This particular bacteria needs surface area to colonize. That’s what the rocks are good for..Besides stabilizing the plants, they create a huge amount of surface area. & you can increase this in several other ways–you can build a trickle filter, a sand filter, we built a bead filter with 100 pounds of beads tumbling around, creating a massive amount of surface area. We’re gonna talk about these in the forums. Come check it out, ask questions, we’re gonna help you out with this.

So, where do you get the bacteria in the first place? Well, it’s there, you can’t avoid it. Once you start adding ammonia to the system, the bacteria will start to colonate..which you can speed up the process by taking a filter or some rocks from an existing system & introduce it to the new system to get going. Next, we’re gonna talk about filtration..you can go as big or as small as you want on this..

These guys right here are our vortex filters. Retail, they’d be about $4,000 apiece..DIY version, about $100. You might be able to do it for cheaper. We’ve got a 55-gallon drum with a cone built into it down into a shower drain. Out here, you can pull off your fertilizer every day for your garden. I’ll show you about that. We’ve got an incredible fertilizer. We have a pretty intense system so we built some really intense filtration. But, you’ll wanna think about these processes.

Stage One, you wanna settle out as much of the solids as you can before you send it to your mechanical filter so you don’t have to change your filter pads all the time. So, we built this vortex filter where the water spins real slow, the solids settle to the bottom, we pull them off as fertilizer every day.

Stage Two, whatever solids sneak by get caught in four filter pads so that the only thing left to filter now is the ammonia.

Stage Three, is the biological filter. It’s where you create a lot of surface area for bacteria to grow. Ours is a bead filter. You might do a sand filter or a trickle filter. After stage three, the ammonia is turned into nitrate. It’s pumped up to the plants.

Stage Four, the plants use the nitrates & send it back clean. & you can do this on a much simpler level. We wouldn’t even need the vortex filters if we just had 100 fish instead of 1,000. The rocks & the grow bed would do most of the biological filtration & we’d just to have to clean it out, whatever solids got caught up in there. But, we are on a mission to create organic fertilizer & harvest it.

We just pulled some concentrated fish manure out of our filtration system & we’re gonna test it. We’re gonna take it up to the University of Missouri & find out what’s in it. We know it’s full of nitrogen, it’s great for the garden. But, is it everything? Is it missing anything? You know— How far do you spread it? How much do you need to dilute it? We’re gonna get the results from MU & get back to you in the next episode.

We got those results back from MU & it looks to be an incredible fertilizer. 9-6-2. Full of micro-nutrients, potent enough to fertilize about twenty tomato plants a day, come back & fertilizer twenty more. We posted the full analysis in our database on the website. Come check it out. & lastly, if you don’t really care how it works & you just wanna download some plans & a part list so you can build it, we got a growing database of open source information.

29 Responses to “Aquaponics How To”

  1. Fantastic Video!!! This website is wonderful and needed! 🙂 My 40 gallon balcony Aquaponics system plans are here: http://www.instructables.com/id/My-Basic-Aquaponics-Setup/
    I would love to have one as large as yours!

  2. Dyson says:

    Do you have plans and specs available for the larger system in the video? I really like those filters…

    I’d like to do something about that size in my neighborhood…

  3. Kelly S says:

    This is not my own answer, but I Goggled it and I foudn this site.

    I never knew they would spark in the microwave! How very interesting!

    “The answer to this is bit difficult to understand at first read. Basically, when you place grapes in the microwave, the skin of the grape acts as a dielectric. This means that it acts as a non-conductive antenna which makes to concentrate the electric potential in the region, thus raising the temperature. When it reaches extremely high temperatures like 3K celsius, plasma is formed. This plasma is cooled by the grape juice that exists in between the layers of the skin causing the characteristic spark!”

  4. Stacey Couch says:

    You Guys Rock! Thanks for the great info. We’ll be sharing it with others and keeping an eye on what you’re up to!

  5. Lynn Howdeshell says:

    I can not figure out how to get the plans you talked about to build the aquaponic system that I just saw where you used the 6 tanks and 4 barrels. i like that system and would like to learn how to build it. I am a lady of 62 years young. Went through chemo and radiation treatments for cancer in 08 and would like to learn how to grow my on food so I can eat better and be able to afford it. Thank you for your help Lynn

  6. Bill Sanders says:

    I have been working with aquaponics for a couple of months now. Here are a couple of web sites on how to use IBC totes that are available at fairly reasonably prices. I paid $50 for three of them. One I use for collecting rain water and have set up one system and will set up another soon. I went to a fish hatchery about an hour and a half from where I live (Waco, TX) and purchased 3 lbs. of tilapia last week (about 35 or so fish) and fish/vegetables doing great…. It might be more practical to start off small – rather than the large system the urban guys have…..

    • Jennifer Dalton says:

      Where are sites with reasonable prices?? I see food grade IBC totes that are priced ridiculously at over $150 each. I live 2 hrs from Kansas City, MO

  7. Bemorphy says:

    Aquaponics combined with aqua culture can be very beneficial. Throw in a few fish, with tiered levels. Im sure you heard about it.
    following you now on twitter

  8. Mike says:

    Thank you guys sooooo much for doing this and even more taking the time to share. Dittos on the “you rock” thing. Totally cool! I wish I could come and see it in person.

  9. Jeff says:

    Very very nice work here, got a question for my very limited knowledge here, ultimately the ammonia is converted into Nitrates, I would assume this is a different nitrate than we have all heard is in our water supply that can cause cancer and other diseases?? I know this is a stupid question, don’t be too hard on me, again, you guys and gals are really ahead of the game. Thanks

  10. elijah says:

    i am interested to start up similar project in the area we work the urban slums in chennai , tamilnadu or the rural village in vellore, tamilnadu. do let us know what are the possibilities to get your expert help and volunteers for my organisation The New LEED Trust (www.leed.in)

  11. Kent says:

    I have searched the site looking for information on your larger system. Even a schematic that shows where you placed punps, plumbing routes, etc would help quite a bit.

  12. melanie says:

    Hello Urban Farming Friends,

    I would like to implement a system in Mexico. We have Home Depot here and I hear from friends that there are tanks available. I would really like to visit your farm and learn first-hand how to best implement everything. I know that it’s much more than building the aquaponics system. What makes your set-up so unique is the vision you have for involving and creating community. I would love to experience it in person! Please let me know how I could set something up and learn more in the meantime. Thanks!

    • Francisco says:

      where you ever able to implement this in Mexico ? I live in Texas and I am interested in starting a catfish farm here.

  13. novicefarmer says:

    i am here in jamaica the ideal climate for growing tilapia i would love to do one of those six drums systems the whole nine yards would love some more detail. i really want to do it as a small business. so help me out pleasee

  14. bkeahl says:

    My question is, what do the fish eat?  I’m assuming you have to feed them something?

  15. Tolderian says:

    As Kent suggested, actual schematics would be delightful. The Wiki page is pretty barren of information and I can’t find the follow up videos of the Bio Filter which would be great.

    Also, side note, check out Rocket Mass Heaters and using them as a means of heating your fish tanks through the winter. I’m going to be trying this out here soon to see if I can get a more diverse type of fish for our weird climate.

  16. Jack Jack says:

    Awesome content on the videos! However like many have said the wiki is quite sparse. If you could do a video on the ‘mechanical filter’ construction and operation as well as the ‘bead barrel’ where the ammonia gets broken down, that would be quite helpful. Keep up the great work! Definitely a fan!

  17. Denis Smith says:

    By doing it ourselves, we save incredibly – in the thousands. But many people are afraid when we come to technical matters which they think they can not do it themselves anyways. But with a complete instructional video like this (http://t.co/PQV0LJgFEt) it is possib;e to do.

  18. Leo Eddie Riveron says:

    Hey, I’m having some trouble getting the bacteria to form in my system. I’ve cycling for a couple months now, ammonia levels really high, but I’m still not seeing any nitrites or nitrates. How does does the cycling process take?

    What’s weird is I DID have nitrites and nitrates before I put fish in (I cycled by adding ammonia manually), but by the time I got around to adding the fish (and sufficiently replacing the rapidly evaporating water), the nitrites and nitrates disappeared.. now that I have fish, I haven’t seen evidence of bacteria since.

    Is my system dirty? Should I clean the hydroton? Should I completely change the water? What’s going on?


  19. John says:

    I checked this tutorial, and it really helped me: http://www.aquaponicssystemsreview.com/stepbystep

    i hope it helps 🙂

  20. Shayla Price says:

    What fish works best in Missouri for an outdoor system? For an indoor system (in my home basement) will I need additional temp control? We keep our thermostat at 75 in summer and 70 in the winter.

  21. True Heart says:

    How many fingerling fish per 100 gal water tank? My PH is high because I am using fresh well water. How much calcium chloride per 100 gal.?

  22. Dale says:

    Hi everyone,
    I am designing a small industrial aquaponics system to marry into an existing single cell biological growth system.
    If any experienced individual is interested to discuss some of our challenges and throw ideas around, then please contact me at zyzzxman@aol.com.
    Also anyone here, who is intrigued to push aquaponic technology, please feel free to talk to me.

  23. Will Lourcey says:

    The water in our system has turned green with algae, we have restricted sunlight but it hasn’t improved. Anyone have any advice.

  24. Mary Lou Kimball says:

    I am in Uganda and looking for things such as this to help the people in being able to produce what they need to eat. Can you help me in finding what I need and what will work here. Mary Lou Kimball